Kyaw Thu: A Well of Compassion
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Wednesday, February 20, 2019


Kyaw Thu: A Well of Compassion



Kyaw Thu, the founder of the Free Funeral Services Society, is one of Burma’s best-known actors and philanthropists. Besides running a funeral service and free clinic for the poor, he also played a prominent role in spearheading private relief efforts for victims of Cyclone Nargis, and more recently has come to the aid of people in drought-stricken areas of Rangoon Division. Interview by Aye Chan Myate.

QUESTION: Water shortages happen almost every year. How is this year different from previous years?

ANSWER: Water shortages usually last just a few days. But this year, the temperature is extremely high and as a result lakes and wells have dried up completely .

Kyaw Thu Starred in more than 200 Movies in the 1980s.He has been devoting his time social work since 2000.


So the worst affected areas are those which rely on lakes and wells?


In some areas, they have no deep wells, so they depend on lakes for drinking water. When those lakes dry up, there is no more drinking water. In some areas,  governmental organizations have confiscated lakes to breed fish. But when the weather is very hot, they cannot breed the fish there, and at the same time, the water is not clean enough for drinking.

QUESTION: Which villages suffered the most in the drought?

ANSWER: I haven’t been to the worst-hit areas, so I can’t tell you how badly they have been affected. My wife has been to some of those places, though. I have to stay here all the time to take care of the funeral services. If I went into the areas affected by the drought, there could be problems with the local authorities. I don’t want the authorities to think that I’m trying to make a political issue of the problem, so I stay away.

Whenever we donate water, we get help from people near the affected area. For example, when we go to the Pegu area, we visit the home of a donor in the city and set up a pump to fill the barrels on our truck. Each time, we can distribute 2,500 gallons of water for people in villages in Waw and Pegu townships. We do this two times a day, so we can donate 5,000 gallons a day.

But water donors have their limits. They cannot keep donating water until their own wells and ponds dry up. In Rangoon, water taps in our area have been turned off because the main water pipe doesn’t work now. We are all facing water shortages.

We are doing some assessments to drill deep wells. We have found a place in the Pegu area. I think we will drill a deep well there. I asked my colleagues to do some assessments in Dala Township, too. We will cooperate with some influential persons, such as senior Buddhist monks. We will ask them to lead the water donation effort. I don’t want to have any influence from other organizations. The donors trust us and our responsibility is distributing assistance directly into the hands of those who need it.

QUESTION: There have been reports that the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) forced water donors to fly its flags on their trucks. Have you experienced this?

ANSWER: No, we haven’t. Some of my colleagues have just gone to Dala Township. I don’t know what we will hear from them. When we went to Pegu to donate water, we didn’t have any problems like that. Our trucks were marked ‘Free Funeral Services Society (Rangoon).’ We would not have agreed to put USDP flags on our vehicles.

QUESTION: It has started to rain in the Rangoon area. Are you still donating water?

ANSWER: Well, things are not getting better yet in some areas. We went to Pegu a few days ago, then to Waw and Thetkala villages. The rain did not last long. We had many problems, too. The villagers who received water from us didn’t have enough containers—big jars, buckets and so on. So now we are thinking about building some brick ponds for them. First, we need to check how many streets there are in each village, and then we can build the brick ponds. That way, when the rain comes, they can store the rainwater.

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